World of Warcraft, in my mind, isn’t a competitive environment at all due to these factors. Add to this Blizzard’s random incremental tampering, nerfing good classes rather than buffing bad ones, and you end up with a hodge-podge of weird changes that always shift the balance, rather than permanently fix anything. I should know, as a Warrior, how that looks. At the beginning of every expansion, Warriors always dominate PvP. On the first major content patch, Blizzard stomps us into the ground, making us nigh-unusable in any kind of PvP, or highly gimped at the very least. Then, later, realizing their mistake and a dwindling active Warrior class base, they finally buff us back to a happy medium by expansion’s end. This silly cycle happens again and again, and clearly the surgery fails to work as they keep operating on the same areas over and over again.
Maybe the diagnosis, in fact, is completely wrong. Maybe they need to think of the meta-game instead. The problem, in my mind, remains in how the classes themselves developed. Because of player demand, most classes play very similarly, with similar tools; the class design, strangely enough, went from bizarrely asymmetrical to incredibly similar with Warlords of Draenor. Every class almost contains the same number of crowd controls and stuns as every other class, but creates variance in attack range. This makes every class feel the same, with the same exact options. Yes, that’s balanced at least from a theoretical design standpoint (the theory doesn’t match up with real world play, though), but that’s also not fun.
A lot of the problems in World of WarCraft’s PvP really come from the basics of its game design and that of MMORPGs in general. Since you need to target other players to attack them, there’s no “missing” a target. They can resist and use a cooldown to pop out of something, sure, but pressing that button takes little thought (as mentioned earlier). It basically removes the ability to introduce any kind of skillshots into the very process of hitting other people. Range is really the only way to prevent attacks, as you strafe around like a madman trying to PvP the other person you just targeted. It’s just incredibly strange to be doing this in a competitive environment. In other words, the PvP feels like PvE from an RPG grafted onto a competitive game without any thought attached. It is mostly designed for time consumption rather than skill, and by the time you actually reach a level where everyone’s gear is equivalent, you spent a whole lot of time and money in subscription fees when you could just as easily play an FPS, RTS, or fighting game instead of a broken, weirdly designed system.
So what should they do? Well, if I had it my way, with completely unrealistic expectations, I would say get rid of gearing, get rid of crowd-control and snares in PvP, and just make every single character class and type function differently in PvP than they do in PvE. The map problems and the rest pale in comparison to the central problem of class design. The same toolset that works for one game just does not work for the other, at least in any way that incentivizes a player to employ more skill. They seriously need to just separate them entirely, as if they were two separate games, to ever make it work. Otherwise, it’s a gear treadmill, and though that’s the modus operandi of most MMORPGs, even Blizzard’s PvE content isn’t as gear dependent as PvP by a long shot.
The asymmetrical design of classes should remain, of course, but they should differentiate them even more than they are now. Experiment with movement options; make it so each class can nullify damage with good timing. Make range and distant real factors instead of minor inconveniences. Make glass cannons like Mages viable, while making healers equally fragile to compensate for their game-changing abilities. Make plate wearing classes the most durable and best flag carriers, but make them vulnerable if they mess up their timing on certain buttons (active defense can be a thing, guys!). Melee and ranged attacks alike should offer different advantages; reward the player for playing to the class’s strength (like Rogues and stealth, for example). Interrupts should remain, but lower the cooldowns and don’t make them as punishing. Remove CCs entirely to keep an active flow of combat that doesn’t involve brain-dead decisions every match.
Barring that completely unrealistic expectation of a multi-billion dollar company that often doles out safe, familiar video game experiences, I would say fix the maps first. The battlegrounds that are uneven need to be fixed. Seriously, just put players on an aesthetically pleasing flat plane, with control points equidistant from each faction’s base, and you’ll make a lot of people happy campers. Get rid of racials in PvP situations – it makes no sense to keep them when they unbalance the game so heavily in favor of one faction. If they can’t mess with the entire game’s design, then they need to fix it.
Why they keep one set of abilities for two very different games has always remained baffling to me. I’m sure the argument is “accessibility” and “unnecessary complications”, but those complications keep things interesting for players investing in long-term play. Otherwise, you merely appeal to some guy who will end up bored within a few months. PvE content sustains itself through new content and the inherent challenge of its boss designs (barring Raid Finder’s newly lowered difficulty ceiling, which is more faceroll than ever, but that’s a topic for a different day). PvP just doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny at all, and needs some fundamental changes to remain relevant…to me, at least. But, you know, they never said they wanted to make it competitively viable, so why should I request such standards?